I recently returned from an extended trip to Tonga, my “motherland,” where I left my $80 MacBookPro power cord. My Pops was born and raised in Tonga, which is a tiny Polynesian kingdom located next to Fiji and Samoa. When I tell people I am part Tongan, many don’t know where or even what Tonga is.

As for the “extended” trip, I was there for a five day visit on the way back from New Zealand, and got detained for an additional five days. With $30 New Zealand bucks in my pocket. The reason? Air Pacific decided to change their flight from 10:30AM to 9:30AM, and I wasn’t informed.

When I got to the airport, they had closed the gate and though they were still boarding passengers, wouldn’t let me on the plane. At that point, I was at the mercy of the Air Pacific manager who came out and told me that I would need to go back to Nuku’alofa to change my ticket at their office, or be a “no show,” and have to pay for a full one-way ticket. Let’s just say I wasn’t treated very nicely. Subtle bullying is what I call it.

When I approached the ticket agent in the first place and handed her my passport, she looked me up and down and said, “We were expecting a Tongan.” With my looks though, it was obvious that she didn’t consider me a Tongan, even though I answered, “But I’m half!”

“No, you are a Palangi!” she said. (White person.)

Air Pacific’s office back in Nuku’alofa was a fiasco. James, my agent, informed me that my change fee would be $173.

“Isn’t this fee supposed to be waived since I didn’t know about the time change?” I asked.

James shrugged his shoulder and tilted his head slightly toward the manager. I looked at her and she shook her head no. Only because a friend of mine had put money into my account in Hawaii (for the purpose of fixing a bad transmission on my old car,) did I have money on my debit card to pay for the change fee. In addition, the manager asked for $120 to stay in one of her bedrooms for the 4 nights.

“The best deal in town. And my food is your food, I share with you whatever I have,” the manager told me. The room was nice enough, in fact, the house was a palace when compared to other homes in Tonga. But when I went to make some tea next morning, the only thing in the kitchen was some salt and pepper and old vegies rotting in the fridge. I realized I was in a Tongan kitchen, where people purchase their food on a meal by meal basis because relatives come and raid the kitchen any time they’re hungry.

I spent my time writing and reading for the three very rainy days I was there. I was hungry and very homesick. On the fourth day, I went with the manager to work, and walked around Nuku’alofa town. I ordered the best mahimahi salad ever, and took photos of the colorfully decorated graveyards. I met amazing people and got a chance to explore and see if I could recognize any part of the Nuku’alofa I remembered when I was ten years old. (I didn’t.)

On the last day, the manager dropped me off at the outdoor Saturday market and I bought a coconut, some apples and roasted peanuts, a favorite Tongan snack. We were to meet in 15 minutes. Three and a half hours later, she still hadn’t arrived, and I was waiting on the designated corner the entire time. It was 3 PM and I had to be at the airport at 4:30 PM. Walking across the street, I handed the counter-boy change from my pockets; New Zealand, Fijian and Tongan coins, asking him to make some calls. Not getting through, he hailed a taxi for $5 Tongan, and I was able to lead the taxi guy to Air Pacific Manager’s house. There are no addresses on any of the buildings in Tonga, you have to know where you are going.

“Where were you? I was so worried about you?” Manager lady said to me, while putting on her makeup when I walked in.

“How much time do I have to pack?” I asked. (And thought, Yeah Right!)

“Ten minutes,” she answered.

Minutes later I was packed and made it to the airport by 4:30PM. And that’s how I left my power cord to my Mac behind the headboard in the room I was in. But no matter, I was on my way home, only to happily kiss the hot black tarmac in Kona when I finally arrived on the Big Island.


Word with Friends

When my boyfriend Daniel got his new I-phone last year, he started playing Words with Friends with our mutual friends. Every week, we played real Scrabble, on a vintage “deluxe” board set up on the kitchen table.  Then his phone would have a distinct ding announcing that it was his turn to play.

“Who you playing scrabble with?” I’d ask in a sing-song voice?

The other I-phone apps didn’t impress me; not even the Star Gazer or the language translator. I had a Blackberry I loved, its only function to text and to talk, and I liked it that way. The only reason I upgraded to an I-phone this past July was to play Words with Friends.

When I was little, Dad started playing Scrabble, a word game he still plays daily “to keep my brain functioning.” All of us kids were his opponent at some point in time, Dad helping to create words from our rack, and then BAM, he’d lay a Bingo down. If he sensed that the 6 year old he was playing with was about to quit, he’d help rack up some big score for the child, and continue to challenge his opponent.

Dad has always had a love of words, using an impressive vocabulary in his talks at church and surrounding himself with books at all times. I’ll never forget how he’d take a book off the shelf and respectfully dust it off with his big hands, opening it carefully and reading from it. I got my love of books and words from him.

I tried downloading the Scrabble version, but none of my friends played and unless I paid $1.99, the music would play on and on and the graphics used too much of my phone battery.

Words with Friends is great because 1) I know who I’m playing with, 2) I play about 7 games at any one time, and
3) I can take my time in responding.

Words with Friends is not so great because 1) The board is laid out differently and they don’t give out the 50 point bonus with Bingos, 2) People use Words with Friends Cheat online, and 3) They take their time in responding.

On the back side of the online board, you can text your opponent, making comments like “Dang! You took my spot!” or “I need more vowels.” I made sure (via texting) that the four friends I do play with, know that I only use a dictionary and don’t use the Cheater online. I’m mostly trusting that they don’t, although a few random words played (like ghoti and quinsy) make me wonder.

So now you know my latest addiction, although I swear! Playing Words with Friends is improving my vocabulary for my essay writing.






Can the way we spell be affected by our DNA? Seriously, after editing my Grandmother’s essays, I was amazed at the amount of words we both were inclined to spell wrong. While I have a convenient spell check on my computer – the familiar red-underlined word that is misspelled – my Grandmother didn’t. Granmamaum was a “Manuscript Typist”, meaning, she made a living back in the day – typing documents, term papers, books and college thesis’, for others, with a carbon copy.

I’m not sure if many people of this younger generation, (X? Y? Z?) know what a real carbon copy is. (As in CC…) But when “real” typewriters existed, typists would insert a black sticky thin-filmed paper between two sheets and type onto the top sheet; the bottom white sheet would have a transfer copy from the black-filmed sheet. One couldn’t reuse these carbons once they were typed on, they had to be thrown out, and a new one inserted for the second page.

What I find astounding is that I have some of the carbon copies from Granmamum’s 135 essays (which don’t scan in very well with OCR by the way, because they are blurry), and THERE ARE NO MISTAKES! OK, so I pride myself in being able to type 80 wpm (words per minute). That’s WITH mistakes, using the delete key to back it up quickly and re-type correctly. If I was to type a whole page, without mistakes, it drops down to 60 wpm.

I know my Grandmother would have loved to type and write on a laptop computer. She’d appreciate the convenience, the speed, the satisfactory way the MacBook Pro produces a soft easy click with each keystroke.

My Dad used to own some old typewriter that I would play on as a kid; the kind that each key had to be pushed down really, really hard. The XYZ generations don’t know what a real “RETURN” means. It still spells it out on our computers now, and has the word “enter” above it. But with a Return, we used to take our left hand and pull a lever over the top of the typewriter in order to get it to move to the next line.

There was something satisfactory in that too. But by the time I got to typing out one page, let me tell you, my hands were sore. I’m not sure if they had then what we call now, carpal tunnel syndrome, but if I had to type on one of those things daily, I know I would.

Good on you Granmamum (my name for her is underlined in red) for being so diligent with your manuscript typing and your old-fashioned typewriter. We are the richer for it.

Here are our top five words (Our misspelling, and the correct spelling):

1) Excercise – Exercise

2) Catastraphe – Catastrophe

3) Offence – Offense

4) Kereosene – Kerosene

5) Neccesary – Necessary

So my mother Irene, Granmamum’s daughter, is dyslexic and a very Creative Speller. Where Granmamum and I mostly excel in spelling and words, mom is more about getting “the story across.” But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Mom (Irene) is 70 years old and still going strong. In April of 2010, she and my dad moved into their dream round house in Nauvoo, Illinois, which she had built with the help of her best friend Vicky Andrus. Of course there were many volunteers, and I got to help when I visited in 2009.

I asked mom, “Could I see the architectural plans?”

“What plans? This is all being done as we go!” she said.

How impressive. She’d purchased two antique log cabins, and used the thick wood to make the sides. Each floor board and each piece of the ceiling had to be cut precisely to fit. Then Vicky said, “Ma’ata, let’s lay out the two bedrooms and bathrooms.”

She picked up a can of orange spray paint, and I followed her to where the rooms were going to be built. We measured out room for mom’s big wood bed and I held the measuring tape as Vicky sprayed the paint directly onto the muddy ground. I laughed when she painted a cock-eyed toilet, but we also found places for the big claw foot tub to sit, and a guest room.

“I’m finally getting “A Round Tuit!” Mom said happily, and told me she was going to put a sign up that said just that.

In between all her work on the house, she continued to make more instruments, including this one, which I named “Sponge Bob Bass,” and told her that if I learn to play it, it’s got my name on it.

She’s quite the character, advertising her business on her van. Someone once asked her if she read palms, thinking that psaltery was palmistry

With the help of my dad and some other volunteers, Mom just completed her new workshop for making harps and dulcimers, ukuleles and bode psaltries. She still makes smaller items, like puzzles and bread knives, but instruments are her favorite.

She’s been texting photos and updates to my phone on the progress of the workshop, and I wrote back, “You are my idol!”

And she is.

Here’s a video – Illinois Stories:

     The Big Dipper as seen from my lanai (credit for photo comes from Wikipedia, a view of the Big Dipper from Kauai.) Although the Big Island is known for its astronomy from Mauna Kea, I am only familiar with a few well-known star systems, the Pleiades, Orion, the Big Dipper, Arcturus. While on Mauna Kea summit for the full moon in May, an astronomer pointed out the Southern Cross, visible only for a couple of months on our horizon.
     In New Zealand this past winter (their summer), this Big Dipper was totally upside down for me. I had to almost bend over backwards to really see it as I knew it. At the tail end of the Big Dipper, a few stars up is Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in our night sky. At the very least, it taught me North and South directions as I knew it.
     The “rabbit in the moon” was also upside down for me in New Zealand. When the moon rose, I knew exactly where North was, and pined for my Hawaiian Big Island.
It is so interesting in the world how things work North and South of the equator. Someone told me to watch how the water runs down the drain, that it is counter-clockwise down under. (Vs. clockwise water drainage above the equator.) And yes, it is true, it does circulate that way.
     In June of this year I met two Raro-Tongan navigators who were on the Marumaru Atua canoe that sailed with six others from New Zealand to Hawaii. They told me that sailing at night with the stars was their favorite watch, that “at least we know where we are going,” they said. During the daytime, they just went with the wind and currents. How I would love to know more about our stars. I’m just grateful when I know at any moment where I am standing, where each of the four directions are, and that I’m on solid ground.

Sometimes I feel like this kitty Blaze, knocking out for a nap rather than writing. I like her style though, looks like she’s thinking…about doing something soon…

I love technology. My laptop battery gives me a good four hours of typing time before signaling “low battery.” I’ve been taking it to different beaches, propping it up on my little stool and typing away, while birds chirp, the breeze cools and the little waves flap onto the shoreline.

This beautiful honu in the photo was captured right at sunset; I saw him on a rock that was higher than most, and ran home to get the camera. He reminded me of how I feel after a long day of being hunched over the computer, but like this honu, choosing to “work” in paradise.

Two sunsets ago, I sat on the beach and watched as 15 turtles slowly made their way onto shore. Congregating together as they decided where to rest for the night, one put his/her flipper on another’s shell like they were best friends.

I wondered, ‘How old are these beings?’ and ‘What are they thinking or communicating?’

Feeling blessed to be part of the moment, the thought came: ‘Work hard, play hard, rest easy.’

Lucky we live Hawaii.